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Full text of "The Loom Of Language"

Pioneers of Language Planning          445
type of shorthand applicable to all languages^ had undertaken the same
task a few years before Wilkins In 1661 Dalgarno published the Ars
Stgnontm, or Universal Character and Philosophical Language Dalgarno
claimed that people who spoke any language could use his for intelligible
conversation or writing after two weeks Essentially, this Art of Symbol
was a lexicon based on a logical classification of "notions " All know-
ledge, or what Dalgarno and his contemporaries thought was know-
ledge, was distributed among seventeen main pigeon holes, each
indicated by a consonant, eg K = political matters, N = natural
objects Dalgarno divided each of the seventeen main classes into sub-
classes labelled by a Latin or Greek vowel symbol, e g Ke = judicial
affairs, Ki = criminal offences, Ku = war. Further splitting of the
sub-classes into groups indicated by consonants and vowels successively
led to a pronounceable polysyllable signifying a particular thing,
individual, process, or relation
Thus the four mammals called &Uphanty cheval, dne and muht in
French3 Elefant, Pferd> Esel^ and Maulesel in German, or elephant,
horsey donkey, and mule in English, are respectively Nyka, Nyky, Nyke3
and Nrjko in Dalgarno's language The ambition of its engineer was to
design something that would be speakable as well as wnteable, and the
grammatical tools he forged for weaving the items of his catalanguage
into connected statements included genuinely progressive character-
istics The verb is absorbed in the noun, as in headline idiom (p 131).
Case goes into the dustbin The single suffix -z shows the plural
number of all names To show how it works, Dalgarno concludes the
book with a translation of the first chapter of Genesis, five Psalms,
and two of Aesop's Fables Here is a specimen Dam semu Sava samesa
Nam trpi Norn  In the beginning God created the heaven and the
earth
Two features of this pioneer enterprise are of special interest to-day.
One is Dalgarno's recognition that all grown languages, including
Latin, are irrational, irregular, and uneconomical The other is explicit
m the introduction to his Didascalocophus or the Deaf and Dumb Man's
Tutor (1680), which contains eloquent testimony to the author's
Baconian faith in the inventiveness of man
"About twenty years ago I published . a Synopsis of a Philosophical
Grammar and Lexicon, thereby showing a way to remedy the difficulties
and absurdities which all languages are clogged with ever since the
Confusion, or rather since the Fall, by cutting off all redundancy, recti-
fying all anomaly, taking away all ambiguity and equivocation, contract-
ing the primitives (primary words) to a few number, and even those not